Grandma’s Lasagne (3 recipes in 1)
Posted by Carol on August 30, 2008
My husband and I have a standing debate about lasagne. He wants me to make it all year ’round, and I am a firm believer that there is “winter food” and “summer food”. Lasagne would be a winter food. It is hearty and heavy, plus it heats up the kitchen baking in the oven. Chili is another winter food in my book. What do you guys think? Are there such a thing as winter and summer foods?
I finally relented a few weeks ago and made lasagne for Hubby. It felt so unnatural for the temperature to be in the 80’s with a lasagne in the oven, but at least I thought to take pictures along the way for you all to see the lasagne in progress.
I combine three separate recipes to make lasagne.
I use my Italian Grandmother’s recipe for the sauce. She is everything you would expect an Italian Grandmother to be. She is 4’10” tall, as cute as a button, and at 85 has hardly any wrinkles. She attributes this to never, ever letting her face get sunburned or tan and to using olive oil on her skin at night. I also do not let my face get too much sun, but if I used olive oil on my face, not only would I look young from a lack of wrinkles, there would be a good chance people would think I was a strangely mature looking teenager from all the zits I would have. But I did rub olive oil on my belly when I was pregnant to avoid stretch marks, and it worked!
The filling comes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook’s lasagne recipe, and the assembly directions are right off the box of Barilla or Ronzoni No Boil Lasagne. There are several “stopping points” along the way where you can do just that. Stop, and have a delicious Italian meal without going all the way to lasagne. I have labeled them Recipe 1, Recipe 2, and Recipe 3. I know, my creativity is underwhelming.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 large can of tomato puree
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 2 6oz cans tomato paste
- 1 of the large tomato cans full of water
- 4 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp (or less) salt – your personal decision how much salt you like, I don’t use too much
- 2 tbsp sugar – if your sauce is tasting too bitter, keep adding sugar a little at a time to smooth it out, but don’t use too much sugar. You don’t want your sauce to be sweet.
- 2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
- 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (you can use hot Italian sausage, turkey sausage, ground beef, or no meat at all, it is totally up to you)
Place oil in a 6 quart dutch oven, saute sausage (or whatever meat you are using), onion and garlic until golden brown. Add tomato puree, crushed tomato, tomato paste, water, and all the spices. Mix well, simmer over medium heat, covered for 1 hour.
Now you have the basic sauce. You can stop here, boil up some spaghetti and have a great dinner (recipe 1). OR continue on to the next step towards lasagne.
The next step is to make the cheesy filling pictured above. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 32 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesean cheese
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried oregano
Mix all those ingredients together and if you don’t want to bother assembling a lasagne, at this point you can combine the sauce, the cheesy filling, and boiled ziti together in a baking dish, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, bake until heated through, and have a delicious baked ziti (recipe 2).
For those of you still with me, pressing on to the ultimate goal of lasagne, we are in the home stretch. The only thing left to do is assemble and cook it. Now, here’s a secret just between you and me. Don’t tell my Italian Grandmother. I use no-boil lasagne noodles. There are two reasons for this. A) they are much easier to work with; and 2) my lasagne used to come out very runny until the second day when the noodles had time to absorb the liquids. The no-boil lasagne noodles absorb the moisture while cooking, avoiding the problem all together.
That is why for this part of the recipe, I follow the instructions on the back of the lasagne noodle box for assembling and cooking. I want the noodles to be cooked correctly. Today, I will give you the directions according to the Barilla box because that’s what I have on hand. Please do whatever your lasagne noodles tell you to. (That was a strange sentence).
(Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray; set aside approx 16 lasagne sheets from box)
You will need two bags shredded mozzarella (at least – I tend to be very generous with the mozzarella cheese)
When layering lasagne, slightly overlap sheets. Lasagne will expand to the edges during cooking. Layer in the following order:
- spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of baking pan
- layer 3-4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 of the cheesy mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1 cup sauce
- layer 3-4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 of the cheesy mixture, and 1 1/2 cups sauce
- layer 3-4 uncooked sheets, the remaining cheesy mixture, and 1 cup sauce
- layer 3-4 uncooked sheets, the remaining sauce and generously sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella
Note: during assembly I am not super concerned with precise measuring as long as I am very generous with the sauce to ensure the noodles have enough moisture to get cooked. I usually just try to divide the filling evenly among the layers. If it looks like my pan is going to overflow, I only do 3 layers, not 4.
To cook: Bake covered with foil until bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.
Here is the finished product before baking. It literally weighs over 10 pounds. (Recipe 3) I totally forgot to take a picture when it came out of the oven and served up on a plate. At least I know how to post pictures now!
To find more great cool weather, comfort food recipes, visit Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee for Fall into Flavor!
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